Nautilus

Can a Cat Have an Existential Crisis?

When I first adopted Lucas nine years ago from a cat rescue organization in Washington, D.C., his name was Puck. “Because he’s mischievous,” his foster mother said. Although we changed the name, her analysis proved correct. Unlike his brother Tip, whom I also adopted, a gray cat with white paws and an Eeyore-ish dour doofy sweetness, Lucas was from the start a fierce black fireball, a menace to stray toes or blanket fringes or loose items on tabletops. He was my alarm clock in the morning with his habit of knocking my hairbrush, deodorant, and earrings box off my bureau until I got up to feed him.

Then, almost four years ago, my husband and I had a child. Lucas, no longer the most important small creature in the apartment, retreated to the top shelf of his cat tree, where he would lie all day, staring morosely over the edge. When he did want attention, his solicitations became aggressive. Instead of waiting until 7 a.m. to start knocking things off of the bureau, he started hopping up there at 4 a.m. We closed the bedroom door and were still woken up at 4 every day by Lucas rattling the doorknob or hurling the weight of his 13-pound body against it. At mealtimes he would gobble down his food and then shove Tip out of the way to eat Tip’s food. He started marking the carpets in our living room and my son’s room, and his play with Tip turned more violent too.

Lucas did well on antidepressants. But he

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus8 min readScience
Can New Species Evolve From Cancers? Maybe.
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Aggressive cancers can spread so fiercely that they seem less like tissues gone wrong and more like invasive parasites looking to consume and then break free of their host. If a wild
Nautilus6 min read
Butterfly Wonk Robert Pyle Pens His First Novel 44 Years in the Making
Last year marked a first for 71-year old Robert Michael Pyle, the acclaimed author, naturalist, and ecologist: the publication of his long-awaited first novel, Magdalena Mountain, nearly half a century in the making. Pyle has been investigating the b
Nautilus15 min read
How American Tycoons Created the Dinosaur: The story of dinosaurs is also the story of capitalism.
The dinosaur is a chimera. Some parts of this complex assemblage are the result of biological evolution. But others are products of human ingenuity, constructed by artists, scientists, and technicians in a laborious process that stretches from the di